Balance In The Chaos of Family Life: Is It Even Possible?

chaos family balance

The Search for Balance

Family life is so chaotic, especially this time of year, but we are committed to learning how to balance “it all”.

My husband is a dad, Special Ed teacher, Grad student, singer, and runner.  I am a mom, blogger, artist, and walker. I also occasionally meet friends for coffee…by myself.  My husband and I go on dates from time to time, and sometimes have someone over for dinner. Our home is constantly one mess after another but it is simple to reset (due to organizing systems I have set in place) even though we have two kids and a dog.

In other words, we are busy. And though we don’t have it all figured out, I wanted to share some things we have found that help us achieve some kind of balance.

How We Do It

First of all, we embrace a “a progress not perfection” mindset. For example, if it’s 8 pm and it’s time for me to blog and the dishes weren’t done yet, oh well. That was all I could do today. I truly work on not beating myself up about it. Honestly, it’s a great lesson in humility.

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I Put the Big Rocks in First

Here’s a story I heard at mass about how we should use our time, talents, and treasure. I learned you have to put the big rocks in more. What I mean by this is, we prioritize.  When I think about my next course of action, I try to think in terms of reality and not what my schedule says, (this is so hard for me) and do the next right thing based on my circumstances. So many things in life are important, but they are not urgent every single day. This quote helps me to  have peace when I didn’t accomplish as much as I set out to:

“Let God tend to the hopeless-looking things…You can’t get everything done in a day, nor can you get any part of it done as well as you’d like it; so, like the rest of us, you putter at your job with a normal amount of energy, for a reasonable amount of time, and go to bed with the humiliating yet exhilarating knowledge that you are only a child of God and not God.” – Fr. Walter Farrell, O.P.

 

I Check My Emotional State

If little things are starting to bother me that my husband, children, or even dog do, it’s probably a red herring for the real problem: I’m in need of self-care. It could mean I need to eat something, take a nap, drink some water, call a friend, do some exercise, or do something creative. Usually, if I stop and think about what I need, and take action, I feel much more in balance. In fact, that’s the best way to know you have balance – check how you are feeling.

I Keep a Schedule

I have a Mother’s Rule, my daily schedule which I update on a regular basis. I view it as a guideline of which to live out my goals for my faith, myself, my husband, my children, and my work. I block out my time and leave plenty of margin for activities like meal times or bed times. I want you to know that I normally don’t complete every single thing on my schedule. I fail every single day. But that only makes me rely on God more. I am only human, after all. And life happens. And sometimes I get distracted.

I Reflect

I try to reflect on how I am doing in my vocation on a regular basis. Besides going to confession and doing an examination of conscience, I also think in practical ways how I could have been more productive or attentive on any given day and apply that to the next day.

 

I’m Learning to Surrender to My Husband

This might be one of the most important things that keeps everything in balance. I have to stop myself from trying to be super-woman and doing everything and controlling everything. I have to say “I can’t” and let my husband see my vulnerability and receive his help and gifts graciously. This is very hard for me, but this book has been life-giving for our marriage and family.

We Believe Our Marriage Comes First

If my children interrupt me, or my husband, when we are talking, we try to teach them to wait and say “excuse me”. We want them to know how to respect us and the bond we share. I set aside time each day to be available for my husband. Am I perfect about it? No, but as with any goal I have, I am more likely to get closer to it when I put it on my schedule. I try to write my husband a love letter every Sunday and we go on a date night at least once a month, we are blessed to have in-laws who are willing to do that for us.

We Use Technology to Help us Reach Our Goals

Sometimes my kids watch more T.V. than I prefer, but it is for the sake of my sanity. The rest of the time I do my best to involve them in chores and other activities. It’s all a matter of balance. I have an app on my phone that reminds me of certain habits I am working on. It helps me stay accountable to my goals and not forget to keep in touch with friends and family.

We Prioritize Every Family Member’s Health, Not Just Our Children’s

My husband and I have set up our home life in such a way that each of us can have some dedicated, uninterrupted time on a regular basis. This is for our mental and emotional health. For our physical health, I usually take walks with my kids or dance around with them. I try to keep track of what I eat on myfitnesspal. I don’t skip meals unless intentionally (i.e. intermittent fasting). I consider it my duty and responsibility to stay sound in mind and body for the sake of serving them. My husband goes on a run during his work day. I meal plan and do Walmart grocery pickup.  We take care of our spiritual health by praying, attending mass, and making it to confession as often as we can. We sleep trained our children so we would all be able to have adequate sleep. I take a quiet time each afternoon alongside my children. All of these things together help us manage the stress of such a busy life.

We Are Always Growing

My husband and I don’t stay stuck in a rut. While I am definitely the self-help junkie of the two of us, he is definitely committed to growing as a person. I’m always reading books, working towards goals, tweaking my routine.

I Protect My Peace

I say “no” based on the commitments I have in my schedule. I know what those commitments are because I have a schedule. I have already discerned that I cannot forgo quiet time without bankrupting myself emotionally. I say “I can’t”. (For example, I can’t do the dishes when I have a headache.) I let myself take breaks. After dinner, I go directly to the bathroom and take a shower. That way I get one before I am too tired to do it. I don’t ask my husband to watch the kids. I just say “I’m going to take a shower”. He’s smart. He realizes that means he will be watching them. And guess what? Everything is okay without me.

We Nurture Friendships

Recently, both my husband and I have set up a recurring meetings with one of our closest friends, he sees his friend on Wednesdays after we put the kids to bed, and I see my friend on Thursdays. We are also slowly becoming more hospitable and opening our home more often to friends and family for visits. I make a habit of reaching out to my friends, just to say hi and see how they are, even if it isn’t reciprocated 100% equally. The way I see it, if I miss them it’s my responsibility to say hi and not wait around for them to do so. I also accept that if I want to have a vibrant social calendar, I need to be prepared to be the one doing the inviting 99 % of the time, it’s just reality. We are all so busy and it is so hard to be intentional. I can’t make people invite me, but I can invite them! It’s not so much about what you get from social interactions as it is what you give.

We Do “Special Time”

We try to spend one-on-one time with each of our kids. It could be simple like just reading a book together, or going on an ice cream date. The idea is that each of our children gets some individualized attention so they know how special and precious they are. Do we do this everyday? No, but since it’s on our radar it happens more often than if it wasn’t a goal to begin with.

Even though we are busy, we feel as though we do have a sense of balance

So as you see, the way we make all of things work is both being blessed but also through being intentional. You can have it all, but you have to let go of perfectionism and you have to understand that all the things you want to have in your life may not happen every single day, but over time. You have to accept that most of the time, you will be off track and life will be a roller coaster ride with ups and downs, but when you have your goals set, you will still be going the right direction, and you will still be making progress.

Radical Hospitality

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I’m currently reading Haley Stewart’s new book, “The Grace of Enough”, and I was inspired by what she wrote about hospitality. We aren’t called to love people who look like us, and were raised like us. We are called to love everyone.

My in-laws are a wonderful example of this kind of radical hospitality. When they host Thanksgiving, they invite all kinds of people who may not have somewhere to go. They come from all backgrounds, income levels, and life circumstances. They welcome everyone.

Haley Stewart brings up a video about what hospitality used to look like, and here it is now (warning: there is some bad language in this video) :

You have to admit, what this guy says is so true!

These days you have to make plans 3 weeks before if you want to see someone. (If they ever answer your text. And they might cancel at last minute because of a better opportunity) And you can’t just ring the doorbell, you at least have to text first. The problem with that, though, is most people will just say no because they aren’t “ready”.

Guys, we don’t have to wait until we can afford a four course meal, a Pinterest-curated home, brand new furniture, and pristine cleanliness for someone to come over. Let’s be like Jennifer Fulwiler, who doesn’t worry to much about the state of her home because she know that it will prevent her from being open to hospitality, she just lights some candles, puts some music on and makes appetizers. Voila, it’s a party. lol

I’m not saying it isn’t nice to decorate, and have a clean and tidy place for people to come, but if you really struggle with those things, you don’t have to wait until you are Martha Stewart to welcome people into your home. Amen? Amen.

Now I really relate to the video I posted because I used to be the type who would hide and army crawl and look for a sword (Okay, fine. Maybe not that last part. ). You see, I’m an introvert and I can be very awkward in social situations, and I also have always been shy. I also have been insecure about not being “enough” and not having “enough” in order to have people over to my home. But this all has changed.

I started to invite people over when I had my first baby. I just wanted to share him with everyone I knew and God gave me a desire to have community. Am I where I need to be? No, but thank God I’m not where I used to be! I have a long way to go , to be more open to all the people in my life.

Let me emphasize, I don’t have a full set of matching dishes. I don’t have designer furniture. I don’t have  a gigantic home. But I have food to share, a place to gather, and love to bestow.  And I think most of us also can check those same boxes. And if some of you have even more abundance materially, I challenge you to share what you have with others. Open your home, share a meal. Otherwise, why have all that stuff? You may as well run a museum.

You may think, like I did, who would want to come to my house? It’s this, or it’s not that, etc. But I have to tell you through experience, it will all work out. No one has ever walked into my home and said “I can’t be here because it’s not fancy enough”. lol!

And I just have to say, of course there is a time to be prudent. Maybe you are going through a lot in your life and you can’t handle the stress of entertaining. Because it is a lot of work. But maybe you are like me, and this becomes the rule of your life instead of the exception. And I have a feeling most of us could probably stretch ourselves a little. Just a little. Jennifer Fulwiler says in one of her books that , and I paraphrase, life is a party, and the more the merrier, but if you are battling a rattlesnake infestation, now probably isn’t the time to have a BBQ – but this probably doesn’t happen as much as we think.

So invite someone over. Reach out to family, a friend, a coworker, a neighbor, an acquaintance, an elderly person, a lonely person, your local priest, that single person you know, that one family with all those kids, that couple with no kids. They probably are waiting for you to. I think most of us would love more human connection, but don’t take the first step because we are afraid the other person will only oblige out of pity instead of genuinely wanting to be with us. Get over it, do it anyway. Invite them over. It really is okay to have grilled cheese, and an imperfect house, because hospitality is about loving your guest, not about receiving praise and approval (and likes on Facebook and Instagram.) You and your guest will be blessed by your hospitality. Yes, there will be a mess to clean up, but maybe that’s what being open to life is. Maybe that’s what loves looks like. A beautiful mess.

 

 

How to Save a Soul

As people of faith, we can feel compelled to help people change – to save them, to convert them. The way we usual go about this is, we argue, try to convince, preach, coerce, nag, worry, etc.

But let me ask you something.

How’s that working out for you?

I think it my be time to try something new, you know, like LOVING them. Loving them because God loves them. Not because of their good behavior or something they did for you. Loving them unconditionally.

Just be a good friend.

What are the characteristics of a good friend? They can be found here:

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

You see that it doesn’t say “love is patient when so and so takes my advice” or “love keeps no record of wrongs except when it doesn’t feel up to it” etc.

The Catholic Church has some excellent, concrete things we can do to be Jesus to others:

I want to zero in on “admonish sinners”, because that doesn’t sound very nice, does it? Well that is because part of being a good friend is willing the best for another and may sometimes involve uncomfortable confrontation.